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I am deeply ashamed of having no pain tolerance

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This topic contains 15 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  anita 4 days, 19 hours ago.

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  • #191739

    Matt
    Participant

    (I think this belongs in emotional mastery because it’s about my emotional response to physical pain?)

    I’ve never had a high pain threshold, it’s embarrassingly low. I’m not sure if it’s been lowered by stress, depression, or anxiety recently, but I got a minuscule couple centimeter cut while chopping a coconut and I nearly passed out. I had to go lie down on the sofa due to feeling light headed. It barely even bled. I’ve always been the more sensitive artsy type (piano, composing, etc…) instead of a manly man, but aren’t I a guy? Am I supposed to be tough? I can’t even begin to comprehend what’s going to happen when my wisdom teeth come out, I’ve had anxiety over them for ages and they don’t even show signs of coming out.

    Please help me? How do I increase pain tolerance? I’ve been trying to eat hot sauce for a while but it’s not helping as far as I can tell. I’m going to get back into exercising so perhaps that will help. How do you do it? Am I just weak?

    #191755

    CarpeDiem
    Participant

    Hey Matt
    Can I ask how old are you?
    Yes, I believe that being physically fit might help you to be stronger but being emotional is a different thing. Do you have any close friends with whom you can confide anything?

    #191781

    anita
    Participant

    Dear Matt:

    I read your other new thread and will respond to the two here (I responded to previous threads that you started but you didn’t get back to me on those):

    Your emotions that you feel, the anger toward your mother for one, the emotion itself is not the problem, or the enemy. The situation bringing about the emotion was/ is the problem. You desperately want to forgive your mother so to not feel the anger anymore. I understand that, but it is the situation that needs to be resolved before the anger is resolved.

    The anger simply carries the message that a situation was or is harmful to you. Resolve the situation, do not try to eliminate the messenger.

    Regarding the low pain tolerance, anxiety does that. Anxiety, added to the physical event and physical pain exacerbates the overall distress. And, I believe there is no difference between men and women in this regard, biologically. Social roles conventions do not change the biology: men and women feel fear and pain the same.

    anita

    #191809

    Matt
    Participant

    To CarpeDiem:

    I am 20 years old, and maybe I could ask my Dad for some help. It does seem like a good idea, but I’ve been reluctant to talk to him in the past (he’s a black belt in Tai-Kwon-Do, earned it three times in three different dojos, so low pain tolerance is embarrassing) because our relationship was a bit shaky. Now we’re on better terms, so maybe I could open up a bit.

     

    To anita:

    I apologize for not getting back to any of your previous responses. I’ve been wresting with social anxiety for a long time but it was still rude, so I am sorry. Thank you also for your message, it seems very wise. I’ve never really considered my feelings as messengers, more like enemies. I’m going to shift my attention towards the situation instead of my reaction to it then. That is also a relief to hear about anxieties effect on pain tolerance, I think I can fix that.

    #191843

    anita
    Participant

    Dear Matt:

    I didn’t expect an apology. Lots of original posters do not respond to replies. I mentioned that you didn’t because I was doubting that you were interested in my response. Nonetheless, I accept your apology and appreciate it.

    Our emotions definitely carry messages. Other animals who do not use logic or a language like ours, able to read books etc., operate solely on their instincts and emotions. When feeling hungry, the message in the huger is: I need food. And they go looking for food. When they feel fear, the message is: I am in danger, and they run away. When they feel anger, the message is: I am in danger, and I can fight the threat, so they fight. Same with us, humans. We have logic and into our logic we need to incorporate the messages in our emotions.

    I don’t know if you shared in the past about your  relationship with your father, having a black belt etc., but if it is relevant to your shame regarding pain intolerance, hope you share and I will respond.

    anita

    #191985

    Matt
    Participant

    Hello anita

    Looking at what you said about animals being angry, meaning they are in danger but are able to fight, maybe that’s why I feel repressed anger much of the time. Applying logic to my emotion, I had to argue a lot in the past with my family, but now that the situation has changed and I don’t need to fight I should have an easier time letting the anger go. There just doesn’t seem to be a reason to hold onto it.

    My father being a black belt also doesn’t have too much influence on my shame, but I do consider him pretty tough. It’s just a bit strange being his son while having a minimum pain threshold.

    #191991

    anita
    Participant

    Dear Matt:

    Having a black belt does not mean having a high pain threshold. Also, there are different kinds of pain and you have displayed a high pain threshold to that pain of anxiety, haven’t you, surviving so much of it so far?

    Regarding your anger toward your mother, I will reply to that in your other thread.

    anita

    • This reply was modified 1 week, 3 days ago by  anita.
    #192251

    princevaliant
    Participant

    Hi Matt,

    I signed up to this forum to answer you. I clicked on your post because I was today thinking about my pain tolerance being overly high, and I was interested in seeing what someone on the other side had to say about it. Then I read your other posts and saw a lot in common between us, so I thought I might be able to share some insight that could help.

    I am a decade older than you. When I was your age, I was in the same boat.  I felt like a failure. I was suicidal. I was trying to forgive parents that had been abusive. I had moved every few years (different cities, countries) as a kid. I never felt like I could talk to or trust anyone. When I did try to trust my parents with my emotions, they reacted poorly and made me feel worse. The only reason I never killed myself was because I have two little brothers who follow me everywhere and I couldn’t justify leading them there.

    Here’s a couple things that stood out to me about your posts:

    You say you have a low pain tolerance, but then say you are suicidal. No one who is suicidal has a low pain tolerance. They are in a massive amount of pain every single moment of every day. Even if you are mostly numb, or lose the ability to name or feel emotions properly, under that is a huge amount of pain.

    Anger isn’t its own emotion, it’s a response to pain. If you are angry all the time and don’t know why, it’s because you are in pain all the time. (As someone who went in the opposite direction and can turn pain “off”, it’s not that great or something to aspire to. It seems cool and badass but really I just ended up permanently damaging my body in a lot of ways. It’s nothing I’m proud of.)

    You said it is absolutely vital that you learn to forgive your abusive parents so you can get rid of your anger. I’m kind of even hesitant to share this, but I wish someone had told me this when I was your age so here goes: forgiveness is great, and it will help, but it doesn’t change everything.

    It would be so great if there was a switch where you could just let go of everything and feel good, right?

    What I’ve discovered as an adult who has had to move back in with my (no longer abusive) parents (for non-mental-health related reasons, long story that is unimportant here) – no amount of forgiveness will undo the programming that has been imprinted on me as a child.

    It’s been a decade since anyone hit me, and the idea that they would storm into my room right now and start screaming or throwing things or hitting me is ridiculous, like laughable. We’re all way past that – they’re different people than they were when I was a kid and we no longer have that type of relationship.

    What I’ve found is that logic and reality don’t sync up to what my body and emotions remember. I’m still hyperaware of their shifts in vocal tone, I overreact internally to their frustrations. Any small amount of stress they feel gets picked up and magnified inside me.

    Forgiving them helped, but it didn’t fix me.

    That’s the bad news, I guess – that years of experience can’t be undone by a simple realization.

    The good news is that if you can get some space from them, you’ll probably be in less pain all the time, which means less anger, which means forgiveness will come naturally and easily.

    The biggest things that helped me: picking up slowly all the pieces of the failure I had made of my life (failing out of college, for one) and trying again. I was able to become financially independent after a couple false starts. Once I had some space, a lot of the anger and resentment disappeared.

    I realized most of it was coming from being around them and my body continually reacting to fear signals, even if I was so out of touch with my body that I couldn’t tell anyone what I was feeling, other than maybe rage.

    That was only the beginning though – I spent the better part of my twenties working on myself. I have never trusted psychologists, so I did it on my own. I got a book on Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. It is a really good type of therapy that helps you reprogram your reactions to stress in a healthy way.

    I found healthy ways to channel my overwhelming anger, which turned out to be a whole bunch of other emotions underneath (pain, shame, regret). I eventually learned how to organize and name them. I can now recognize a whole scope of emotions I’d lost access to before.

    Living with your abusers puts you in the position that a couple other people here mentioned – fight or flight. It doesn’t matter that they are no longer hurting you. You’ve been hardwired for survival in a way that helps us make it through crisis situations, and no amount of logic is going to convince your body you’re not still in crisis.

    So, fight or flight. Fight is all your anger. Flight is suicide. But you have a lot more options than that.

    The tricky part is to work towards giving yourself those options while not being able to feel anything good, like motivation or just, feeling normal or okay. Some people mentioned antidepressants. I never took those. I think they can really help in the short term with getting motivation up. They might be worth looking into. I have friends who they helped get over the initial bump of fixing their lives.

    Similarly, if you can find a trusted friend or maybe  a professional to talk to (you said you maybe want a mother who will just listen to you), that could help.

    It’s helpful to feel validated. I made other friends who had similarly abusive backgrounds and we listen to each other and don’t judge each other. This was huge for me and the biggest thing that helped other than getting actual physical space from my family so my body could heal, and working on the Dialectical Behavioral Therapy to help me process emotions.

    You have a lot of good things going for you: you’re being incredibly strong for your little brother. You can acknowledge that and put it into words: you’re living in a great deal of pain every day because you love someone else. That’s so brave.

    You also said you channel your feelings into music – that’s wonderful! Music is such a great outlet. I wish I was better at it. Maybe you can find some people outside your home to make music with.

    Look up Dialectical Behavioral Therapy from Marsha Linehan. It’s based in mindfulness practices, which based on you being on Tiny Buddha, I’m guessing you’re naturally drawn to those. If you can afford it, there are some workbooks that you can get and fill out on your own. There are free resources online as well.

    You have a lot of self-awareness and logical thinking skills that I can see in your posts. If you can make a plan for becoming financially independent from your parents and start taking tiny steps towards it every day, I think that would help. It’s great your mom is on medication and your dad is improving, but if you have been abused in that house, it’s going to be very hard to feel differently around them until you’ve had some space to heal and process things on your own.

    What I wouldn’t worry about is trying to make your feelings different. It’s pretty impossible anyways. All we can do is change how we react to the things we feel. So instead of trying to stop feeling anger, try to work on making that anger work for you in some way. Either find healthy ways to release it (exercise is a great one, in moderation).

    Or just work on acknowledging the feeling without judging it: “I feel really angry.”

    Instead of “I feel really angry, but I shouldn’t, because other people have it worse and my mom was nice to me today”.

    I know it can feel really impossible to make major changes in your life when you’re dealing with depression and social anxiety. Depression takes away your motivation, and social anxiety makes it hard to go to school or get a job. But you can do it! It just takes patience and persistence and a lot of congratulating yourself for small victories.

    When a task seems too big, try to find the smallest possible step towards it and try to take it. You’re very rational and smart, so you can use those skills to your advantage here in breaking down big goals into small tasks.

    This has gotten really long, so here is one last story to close the post. Context: I also struggle a lot with feeling “behind”, like everyone else is more functional and farther ahead in life than me, and I’m broken and lagging behind. I have a lot of useless anger because I feel like my potential (being very smart, learning almost anything easily) has not been matched by my actual life (full of failures to live up to that potential).

    A story I heard that I liked because it appealed to my rational side:

    A businessman in his forties was telling his best friend, “You know, I’ve always dreamed of being a doctor. But by the time I would be out of school and practicing medicine I’d be 57. It’s way too late to try.” His best friend replied, “Well, you’re going to be 57 anyway. So do you want to be 57 and a doctor, or 57 and never having tried to do your dream?” The man realized his friend was right and enrolled in medical school. He did graduate when he was 57 and became a successful doctor for almost 20 years.

    I think of this story whenever I have no motivation to do something or it seems too big a task to take on and there’s not enough time to get it done. I’m going to be 32 anyway, so what do I want to do in the meantime? It’s going to be next week anyway, so what can I do between now and then to improve my situation?

    I won’t take it personally if you don’t respond back, so you don’t need to feel anxious about just letting my post hang here or anything. I enjoyed writing to you and hope that some piece of this was helpful.

    You’re so very young and have all the time in the world to start over and get it right. Best of luck to you! I know you can do it. 🙂

    #192369

    Matt
    Participant

    To anita:

    Now that you say it, I have been able to deal with a lot of anxiety over my life. I never thought much of it. Maybe my pain tolerance just isn’t tailored towards physical pain, instead it’s for other kinds of pain.

    To princevaliant:

    Thank you for your kind words and experiences, and I very much connected with that story of the businessman. I understand forgiveness may not fix everything, but I do think it will help me stop feeling so messed up every day. I tend to feel empty most of the time due to repressed emotions, so without them there it should allow me to finally recover and feel normal. Financial independence sounds good too, I’m going to make a plan for that. I’ll also look into Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, mindful practices are definitely my thing.

    I’ve begun to think that possibly my pain tolerance is more of an emotional one, not a physical one. Hopefully when I get my inner self sorted out my physical pain tolerance will get better as well.

    #192431

    anita
    Participant

    Dear Matt:

    People refer to physical pain vs emotional pain, as if emotional pain is not physical. Biologically speaking, all pain is physical. There is nothing that we experience, including thoughts and emotions, that is outside the physical. It is just that certain physical changes in our bodies can be measured by existing methods (ex. body temperature) and other physical changes (ex., sadness) can not be measured, at least not easily.

    Our thinking and feeling is made possible by our brain which is a physical organ. Without our brain, there is nothing to experience.

    You mentioned repressed emotions, that drains the body, tires the body, to repress such an emotion as anger. The more tired the brain/ body is, the more sensitive it is to pain and distress. It is similar to not getting enough sleep, everything is more difficult, usually, after not sleeping enough, being overly tired.

    anita

    #192561

    princevaliant
    Participant

    Hi Matt,

    You’re already way ahead of most people by recognizing that your emptiness or numbness is actually repressed emotions. It’s great you are able to identify that. I didn’t mean to suggest that forgiveness wouldn’t help, only that if you find you have forgiven them and you still feel angry, or anxious in your home, it’s pretty normal and not something to be alarmed about.

    Regarding forgiveness in general, here’s a little more of my story that might be useful. Both my parents abused us, but my dad would apologize. My mom did not – or, her apology would really just be about how bad you were and how you made her do what she did. I understood why my dad was violent – he had a bad childhood, his dad was terrible – but my mom seemed strange to me. Her childhood had been good, I didn’t get why she would treat us like that.

    It wasn’t until I got older and I was able to learn more about her family that I realized that underneath a veneer of normalcy there’s definitely some problems that helped explain why she had such poor coping mechanisms for stress (which is what using your children as an outlet for your negative emotions is). Perfectionism and anxiety run in her family. She was never taught healthy ways to cope with stress.

    It’s easy to excuse someone for hitting you when they themselves were hit even worse as a kid, but hard to explain why someone who by all accounts had a great life would treat you so horribly. The few times I’ve tried to get her to admit some of the things that happened I was met with flat-out denial.

    So, I decided I had to make my peace with her without getting anything resembling acknowledgment or apology.

    The first thing was to validate my own experiences, because she was never going to validate them for me. I stopped saying stuff like “other people have it worse” or “stop feeling sorry for yourself, nothing that bad happened to you” and let myself feel all the pain I felt without judgment. It is what it is.

    The second thing was to try to extend empathy to her. Even if I’ll never know what she was thinking or why she did what she did, I know that it didn’t make her happy to hurt us. She probably, on some level, feels a lot of shame and self-loathing for hurting us.

    I tell myself: she did the best with what she had. If she had better tools, she would have used them. She just didn’t know how.

    This helps me feel empathy for her without justifying how she treated us. She certainly was in a lot of pain – no one who hurts defenseless children feels good about themselves inside. It let me move on without needing her to admit what she did or take responsibility; if I was waiting for that I’d be waiting forever.

    Nowadays we have a pleasant relationship, although it does make me sad we’re missing the intimacy that we’d have if there was more honesty between us. I focus on the good things and the nice times we have together, and try to let go of the things that make me sad still, like her perfectionism that still ruins parts of her life, ability to relax or have any fun. I can’t fix those things for her, but I can love her anyway, and that helps.

    #192563

    princevaliant
    Participant

    If you’d like to share more about the particularities of your family I’d be happy to listen as a non-judgmental person (and without offering specific advice); just a listening ear for whatever experiences you’re struggling with reconciling.

    #192815

    Matt
    Participant

    To anita:

    That would explain why I feel so tired and stressed all the time. Seriously, forgiveness seems like such a vital life skill I’m surprised they don’t teach it in school.

    To princevaliant:

    I didn’t think you meant forgiveness wouldn’t help, I was just saying that even though forgiveness may not fix everything it’s still my #1 priority. With all the exhausting repressed emotions gone I will finally be free, even if I have some residue left over. I will definitely have to pick my life back together after forgiving, but it will be so much easier after I’ve let go.

    Your post also made me realize I need to truly validate myself as well. I thought I had, but it seems I still feel strangely guilty over what happened even though none of it was my fault (it can’t have been, I was a child). I’m going to focus on this to help me forgive easier.

    #192837

    anita
    Participant

    Dear Matt:

    Forgiveness would be possible when you no longer live in the presence of a person who abused you, a presence that still triggers emotional memories of past abuse. Forgiving before you feel safe from abuse (happening or memories being triggered) is not doable, I believe.

    anita

    #193057

    Matt
    Participant

    Hello anita

    That does make sense, but on the bright side I do feel safe from abuse now. After all the medication and therapy my mother has gone through I have seen she wont be abusing me anymore. The emotional memories must be a bit of a hurdle, but I think I can do it. At least I know why the forgiveness is coming a lot harder than I thought it would (I’ve been trying for a while now).

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